Saturday, October 4, 2008

Take Action: The NYC Transit Authority Encourages Women to Stand Up to Gropers

The New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority has a new policy encouraging women to report men who grope them on the subway.

The policy came about after a police sting and informal surveys indicated that being harassed or groped on the subway was a common experience among women.

I'm glad to see such a policy. Women need to be reminded that they don't have to suffer such abuses in silence. They can take action.

There are probably times when the best course of action is to get off at the next stop and find a transit officer, but in many cases, yelling at the guy and embarrassing him when the assault happens may be the most effective response. In that situation, you will likely get support from others on the subway car.

On Salon's Broadsheet, Kate Harding suggests that this is another way of putting the onus on the victim. But while it's important not to blame victims, one of the best ways to stop assaults against women is for women to refuse to be victims. And the best way to do that is to stand up against attackers.


Elena said...

"In that situation, you will likely get support from others on the subway car."

I am so glad you've had that experience because I've neves r had anyone back me up. You think it's common?

Nancy Jane Moore said...

I was speculating that people will back a woman up if she says something, based on some of the news stories I saw. But that's all anecdotal; I don't think there have been any studies of this. (That's a good research subject for a sociologist.) I would guess that sometimes you'll get support and sometimes you won't.

I suspect that listening to your instincts if you're in a groping situation will help you figure out whether to stand up to the attacker or get away from him as quickly as you can. In addition to reading how dangerous the person is, you will also be aware of what the people around you are like. Go with your instinct -- not your anger. If it says confront him, do so. And then catch the eye of someone around you and engage them on your side.

Having said that: I hope you never have the experience again! But unfortunately, groping and related behavior seem to be very common.

The personal experience that sticks in my mind actually happened in a station in the NYC subway system. I was carrying a lot of bags, and a man came by and patted me on the butt. There wasn't anyone else around to engage on my side. I was so angry I tried to chase him, but the bags slowed me down. I don't think chasing after an attacker is a good response, btw; I was just mad.